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Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey
Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey
BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW WITH DR GEORGE CAREY ON APRIL 8TH, 2001

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

DAVID FROST:

Talking of Sundays and next Sunday this week church-goers all over the world will celebrate Easter with services on Good Friday and of course on Easter Sunday marking one of the most sacred days in the Christian calendar. And the week after Easter is rather special for Dr George Carey too, it's the 10th anniversary of the date he took over as Archbishop of Canterbury, ten years, Leader of the Anglican Church world-wide as well of course. In those ten years the Church of England has gone through some remarkable changes including the ordination of women priests and a new tolerance of priests with a homosexual orientation. We met Dr Carey at Lambeth Palace and talked to him in his private study about the changes he's presided over in the decade he's been in charge of the Anglican Church.

Archbishop there are two major events coming along in the calendar, there's of course Easter coming along and then there's Arsenal's return match against Valencia?

GEORGE CAREY:

Indeed and even before that of course they have to face Spurs and get into the FA Cup Final.

DAVID FROST:

And your personal secretary's a Spurs supporter?

GEORGE CAREY:

I'm very keen on Arsenal so there's rivalry here.

DAVID FROST:

Yes, could there ever be an Arsene Wenger or a Sven Goran Eriksson as Archbishop of Canterbury, could there ever be a non-English Archbishop of Canterbury?

GEORGE CAREY:

There can be a non-English Archbishop of Canterbury as long, at the present time, as long as that person can swear allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen because of the nature of the establishment. That means that certain Commonwealth countries of course can produce an Archbishop and no doubt a number will be considered when my job is on offer.

DAVID FROST:

When will your job be on offer because in fact the other celebration of course is the 10th anniversary on the 19th of April of your Archbishop-ship and how long do you plan to go on, have you decided, or is there set date?

GEORGE CAREY:

Well I can go on to 70 years of age, that's 2005, I'm enjoying the job enormously, the many challenges, many demands, but there are also many privileges and opportunities associated with the job, so I've got time on my side, I haven't made a decision yet but in this 10th anniversary I still have things I want to achieve.

DAVID FROST:

Could there ever be a woman Archbishop of Canterbury or indeed a gay Archbishop of Canterbury?

GEORGE CAREY:

Well I think on the former I would say it's possibly so, that would depend of course on the work of this working party that we've set up that will eventually report on women bishops, that's sometime, of course, in the future, we'll have to wait and see and on the second question it would depend again very much upon the church itself and I want to say that we are still grappling with issues of that nature.

DAVID FROST:

Yes the position in terms of gay clerics is that in fact, or homophile as the document said, is that non-practising homophiles is accept, that's acceptable, but not practising homophiles as priests , that's, is that a fair summary?

GEORGE CAREY:

Yes the church's ruling on this is that homosexuals are welcome in the priesthood but we draw a line at practising homosexuals because the church has a clear ruling on what kind of lifestyle we require in the ordained ministry.

DAVID FROST:

Let's touch on Easter for a moment, how do you feel and how do you respond to people who say I believe in God, I believe in Christ, I'm a Christian but I cannot accept the Resurrection as a historical fact when I know you regard it as the heartbeat of Christianity?

GEORGE CAREY:

Yes it indeed, it is the heartbeat, in fact I'd want to say this is the reason why the Church exists, this is the event which created the Christian Church. You look at every book in the New Testament and it throbs with the fact that Jesus Christ is risen, that is a fact. For those who are struggling with this and for those who say yes I can believe in life after death, I can't really believe that Jesus was raised physically - my response to them is to carry on arguing with the evidence, argue with the New Testament itself. I want, don't want to rule anybody out of the Kingdom of God but I want to invite them in.

DAVID FROST:

And you mentioned women priests, what do you say to those still reluctant church-goers who say they won't attend a particular church if there's a woman priest preaching?

GEORGE CAREY:

Well we'd say that under the provisions we have made there is room for them to go to churches where they can be comfortable, where the so-called friern bishop or provincial episcopal visitor is allocated for precisely that kind of person. There are many churches where, who are not yet sure about the ordination of women to the priesthood so we've made these pastoral arrangements.

DAVID FROST:

And have you seen the Vicar of Dibley, does that help do you think?

GEORGE CAREY:

I, I know the character on which the Vicar of Dibley was based, yes, I mean it's a programme, it's highly entertainment, entertaining, I think actually it's done a lot of good for the church in many ways.

DAVID FROST:

What about, you've got very close on Holocaust Day with the Chief Rabbi and so on, that's obviously part of the forging of links with other churches that you're passionate about?

GEORGE CAREY:

Absolutely, I have very close links not only with the Chief Rabbi but Muslim and Hindu leaders in this country and indeed throughout the world. I hope this Britain can actually say something to the rest of the world in terms of tolerance, equality of opportunity, Muslims are able to build their mosques here and so on, and we want to say to the rest of the world, why can't Christians build our churches in places where Islam is strong, and I'm sure moderate Muslims will join me in, in longing for that day when they'll be there in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere where at the moment they are forbidden.

DAVID FROST:

One vital issue, two weeks ago the Catholic Bishops published an election guide for voters and they suggested that they should press candidates, their supporters should press candidates on issues such as abortion, marriage and euthanasia, would you have subjects that you would press your supporters, your members to press their candidates on?

GEORGE CAREY:

Yes indeed, I mean I, I believe that everyone should vote, I mean democracy has been a hard-fought thing and for ordinary people it's only late in the day that that vote has come to us and I think it's therefore vitally important we get out there and vote and Christians who care about, for example, our environment, will be ones, question attitude on that, family, Christian believe very strongly in the family and we want a politician to be explicit on where they stand on that issue. I'd want to say also about what we're giving to the rest of the world in terms of the fact we are a very rich nation and we can do more for the very poor, the two-thirds on under $2 a day. Issues like that we can ask what are the candidates' views on those, what kind of vision of society do they have and for Christians unrepentantly, do they have a view of the Christian society in this land and all these issues can be explored and if you make your vote based upon that as well as the political party they represent.

DAVID FROST:

And is, and is hunting a moral issue?

GEORGE CAREY:

Of course its a moral issue, indeed and that's a question we must put to them too.

DAVID FROST:

What is the moral answer to the question?

GEORGE CAREY:

The moral answer, and I, I want to be a pole-vaulter if I may, that is to take a long run at the question and as we run towards it you have to say questions like this, you have to look at the person concerned and issues concerned and say well what is creation for, who is for, do animals have a role in this, how do we look after God's creation and how do we as Christians handle two sets of argument which are held with equal passion on the one hand, that this is one way of controlling pests and on another way how do we control them fairly and honourably. I want to say this has not been a major issue of my ten years and obviously Christians themselves will take different sides on the subject.

DAVID FROST:

What about the issue of, we touched earlier on about priests, but would there ever be a day when the Church would contemplate, I suspect on the basis of what you said earlier not, but would contemplate the idea of gay marriages?

GEORGE CAREY:

No, I would say very firmly because marriage is a relationship between man and woman and I don't think it actually helps to confuse terms, I also believe very strongly in the importance of friendship and people can have a deep friendship and call it friendship but we don't have to muddy the waters in terms of calling, calling it marriage. So let's be clear about the language we use.

DAVID FROST:

What about the subject that has come into the language just recently, foot and mouth has been back for the first time in a big way since 1967, and you have stepped into that controversy and other Bishops too, in terms of delaying the general election and so on, when obviously you haven't suggested delaying the election for other things, what was so unique about foot and mouth?

GEORGE CAREY:

Well I certainly have not actually hinted in anything I've said that there should be any delay or any change or whatever. What I've said is that politicians will bear into account that they want people to study the issues because elections are deeply important and they will bear in account parts of the country where getting to a booth may be very difficult indeed. Other Christian leaders have been more explicit but I have simply said the politicians will bear these factors in mind. I mean we are talking about a terrible, terrible epidemic and the church is alongside the farmers at this present time. The Archbishop of York and I have opened up a fund to help them and we hope that this will be a tangible sign of our commitment to the rural community.

DAVID FROST:

And so that in terms of, from your point of view, you don't have a particular objection to June the 7th for instance?

GEORGE CAREY:

Not at all, not at all, it's a day as good any other and we must get out there and vote and see what government will be elected.

DAVID FROST:

One vital issue for a lot of people, the Church's position on marrying divorced couples?

GEORGE CAREY:

Yes.

DAVID FROST:

The, the position would seem to be at the moment a situation where if you can get a vicar who is prepared to do it in his conscience and so on, then that's okay, but, but that's probably not a definitive judgement, where do you stand?

GEORGE CAREY:

Well I think you're right, we do send out again a muddled signal to people, I mean I personally believe that marriage is such a major, major moment in anyone's life that we as a church would be generous and welcoming as far as we possibly can be and that's why we are producing a report later this year which the Church of England will discuss, which I hope actually will take us forward because I am concerned about this very thing.

DAVID FROST:

Looking back over the last ten years what was the most inspiring sight and what was the worst sight, the most distressing, the most inhuman sight you encountered?

GEORGE CAREY:

Well this is a very unfair question David because so many wonderful things have happened but if I can respond to the two you've just allowed me. First of all I was there at the inauguration of Nelson Mandela, with Prince Philip, with Douglas Hurd and it was a remarkable, a remarkable time because I'd been with Nelson just a year before and he didn't look as though anything like that was ever going to happen. Why I'm so pleased is that of course I represent a world-wide Anglican Communion and Desmond Tutu one of our greatest Archbishops was so pivotal in bringing that to that conclusion. That was perhaps one of the high spots. One of the lowest I have again, have to go outside Britain to Rwanda where I was the first, my wife and I were the first Westerners, or VIPs to go into Rwanda just a few months after the genocide and we were in a Roman Catholic Cathedral where 5,000 women and children had been slaughtered and we stood there among the skeletons and tiny skulls and all the questions came back at that particular point, you know how can man be so awful, how can we be so evil towards one another, that's why I hold on to the great truths of the Christian faith, Easter which we are about to celebrate.

DAVID FROST:

And in terms of, in terms of the future, two things to conclude, one, when I talked to Billy Graham he had, last, he had questions that he wanted, that he was puzzled by that he admitted he didn't know everything, that he wanted to ask God when he got to Heaven, one was, whether there was life on other planets and another was why did he make Satan so strong. Do you have questions that you don't fully understand that you're looking forward to asking God about?

GEORGE CAREY:

I would like to ask him about the existence of course of cancer in our world and I think God may point me very gently to the fact that at the heart of the Christian faith is a cross and suffering is often the way in which we find God. In fact I had to say for my own experience, that my wife and I lost our first child and for us that actually was a turning point into greater maturity, greater understand, tenderness towards the sufferings of others. So issues would like that but I think when we meet God we're going to be so amazed at the grandeur and beauty of God that our questions will dwarf into insignificance.

DAVID FROST:

Archbishop thank you very much indeed.

GEORGE CAREY:

Thank you David.

DAVID FROST:

The Archbishop of Canterbury of course there talking at Lambeth Palace.

END

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